866-699-9577

10 Vintage Perfume Commercials From the 1970s and 1980s

Still from Calvin Klein's 1986 Obsession commercial. black and white. Foreground from left to right: king chess piece, bottle of obsession, orchid bloom. Background: soft focus of young woman's face

When we think about branding, these 10 vintage perfume commercials from the 1970s and 1980s are going for the gold. Without further ado, in chronological order:

1. Babe by Faberge – 1977

2. Cie Perfume – 1978

3. Charlie by Revlon – 1978

4. Jean Naté – 1979

5. Enjoli – 1979

6. Chanel No. 5 – 1979

7. Coty Wild Musk – 1983

8. Windsong Perfume – 1984

9. Obsession – 1986

10. Jovan Musk – 1987

Babe by Faberge (1977)

“You’re one of the boys, but you’re a real girl, babe.”

This story of a white lady living her best life to a blaxploitation soundtrack features an early example of what Gillian Flynn later dubbed the “cool girl.”

P.S. In the ’70s, back before there were SUVs, people used to haul their Christmas trees home on snowmobiles… it was just the most practical option out there.

Cie Perfume (1978)

Cie by Jacqueline Cochran. “Cie is me. Maybe it’s you too.”

In 1978, I didn’t know who Candice Bergen was, but I did know that dropping your ice cream isn’t “wonderfully unpredictable” — it sucks. Much later, I saw an edited-for-television version of “Carnal Knowledge” and thought to myself, “Oh, that’s that dumb lady who dropped her ice cream.”

Charlie by Revlon (1978)

“Kinda young, kinda now, Charlie… kinda free, kinda WOW, Charlie.”

No one ever made an entrance like Shelley Hack. I mean, who wouldn’t want to dance into a piano bar? But who would dare? Well, she did. Shelley tosses her hat to the doorman and choreographically flash-flirts with an assortment of eligible men before one of them literally swings her into a booth across from her very lucky date. Meanwhile, Bobby Short, who wrote the (perfect) jingle, is right there at the keys, totally selling it. Just a great evening all around.

Jean Naté (1979)

“Between Jean Naté and you, there’s nothing you can’t do!”

Emmanuelle” meets “National Velvet.” I loved these supercharged Jean Naté ads, and I got the after-bath splash AND the talcum powder for Christmas when I was 11. I bought a big bottle of this stuff at Walgreens a couple of years ago, and THEY CHANGED THE FORMULA. It’s less citrusy now! What the eff?!!

(Editor’s Note: Not sure how large the female competitive horse-racing demographic was in 1979 — we suspect this theme was capitalizing on the popularity of “The Black Stallion,” also released in 1979).

Enjoli by Charles of the Ritz.

“The 8-hour perfume for the 24-hour woman.”

This ad is interesting as an artifact of “having it all” second-wave feminism, but the fantasy it was selling always seemed so labor-intensive. You have to earn money, run the household, raise your kids, and cheerfully put out for an ego-fragile husband on demand. No thanks!

 Chanel No. 5 (1979)

“Share the fantasy.”

Of the three Ridley Scott-directed ads for Chanel No. 5 in the late ’70s/early ’80s, this one is my favorite because The Ink Spots + trains. All three ads have certain key images in common — a strong phallic symbol, an airplane casting a shadow, and a handsome man who probably doesn’t exist. It’s all classy as hell, and seeing it again makes me want to go out and buy the stuff, except that it will probably remind me of someone from my childhood and I won’t be able to figure out who.

Coty Wild Musk (1983)

Musk was kind of a big deal in the ’80s. This TV spot is pure carnality, featuring two good-looking kids meeting for the first time at a Paleolithic-themed high school dance. The guy always reminded me of Christopher Atkins from “The Blue Lagoon,” and not in a “good way.”

Windsong Perfume (1984)

Wind Song by Prince Matchabelli.

Elegant Lady 1: Did you tell Richard you’d be here?

Elegant Lady 2: No.

Elegant Lady 1: Well, he’s here.

Elegant Lady 2: (inspired strategic pause)… Oh, waiter!

The perfume spritz on the datebook page delivered to the “gentleman right over there” was the ’80s version of the booty call. EVERYONE used to do it.

Obsession (1986)

Obsession by Calvin Klein. Look, no one ever really knew what the hell was going on in these ads. At the center is a soul-destructive manic pixie dream girl who hangs out with four recurring people: a besotted young man, an equally besotted middle-aged man, a middle-aged romantic rival whom she physically abuses, and a Neutral Good tomboy who seems to represent the girl’s salvation. There are also stairs, shadows, chess, and bad slam poetry, The End.

Jovan Musk (1987)

Jovan Musk by Coty. This ad directed by Adrian Lyne is just super hot, way hotter than any of his movies. (I mean, does anyone still think “9 1/2 Weeks” is sexy? NOPE.) My favorite shot is the (police?) flashlight invading the prom couple’s limousine tryst.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our list of 10 vintage perfume commercials. Of course, this list is not an endorsement of any implicit or explicit gender expectations. What’s interesting is the personas these ads are trying to connect with. How has this persona changed in 2024? How has it remained the same?

At any rate, perfume advertising agencies may want to consider reviving (while updating) the aesthetic of highly produced, earnest-while-unintentionally-hilarious, in-the-zeitgeist gems that we have here.

Author

  • Robin

    Meet Robin Heindselman! With a Master of Arts degree in English from SUNY Binghamton, she's all about words and tunes. Though her days of rocking out with the pop-punk band The Rubber Maids may be over, Robin's passion for music lives on as she shapes young minds as an English teacher at Country Day School in New Orleans. Previously, she honed her editorial skills as a copy editor at Pearson. Whether she's inspiring students in the classroom or fine-tuning texts, Robin brings her unique vibe and dedication to making a difference wherever she goes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *